Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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APOCALYPSE - Introduction

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Apocalypse - Introduction

Supplemental Commentary:

THE APOCALYPSE

Introduction

Title and Meaning.  The word "apocalypse" means a revelation.  God is the ultimate author of this revelation.  He gave it to Christ, and Christ through His angel gave it to His servant John.  The Apocalypse is a prophetic revelation in which the principal object is Christ manifesting Himself as Lord and Judge.

Purpose.  The Christians, by their refusal to observe the official cult, had exposed themselves to persecution, and John, who had himself been exiled to the island of Patmos, writes to the seven churches of the Roman province of Asia, to stimulate their faith and fortitude.  Persecution has come, and greater persecution will come, but the victory of the Church is certain, for Christ controls and executes the decrees of God during the course of history.  The only danger is that Christians may permit themselves to be seduced, and become morally lax.  The message of John is, therefore, a warning, a basis for hope, and an exhortation to reform.

Canonicity.  The canonicity of this Book was never called into question in the Western Church.  It stands in the Muratorian Canon without suspicion.  In the Eastern Church, however, its place in the canon was long uncertain.  The church at Alexandria accepted it.  At Antioch it was rejected for a time.  It was not originally in the Syrian Peschitto.  The Eastern Church yielded, after a time, to the influence of Alexandria and the West, and admitted the Apocalypse to its canon.  At the time of the Renaissance the old objections were renewed.  Erasmus denied that John the Evangelist was its author.  The early Protestants were divided, but the Book is not excluded from any Protestant Bible.

Author.  The Apocalypse announces itself as written by one whose name was John.  Tradition tells us firmly and almost unanimously that the author is John the Apostle, the author of the Fourth Gospel.  The language, the doctrine, the characteristics of the Book confirm this.  They manifest a Johannine hand.

Date and Place of Composition.  On the authority of St. Irenaeus, we may hold as very probable that the Book was written towards the end of the reign of Domitian, and therefore about the year 96.  The author himself tells us that it was written on the island of Patmos (1, 9-11).

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OUTLINE

Prologue  1, 1-8

I. The Seven Letters  1, 9 -- 3, 22
1. Preparatory Vision  1, 9-20

2. The Letters  2, 1 -- 3, 22
II. The Seven Seals  4, 1 -- 8, 1
1. Preparatory Vision  4, 1 -- 5, 14

2. The Breaking of the First Six Seals  6, 1-17

3. An Intermediate Vision, and the Opening of the Seventh Seal  7, 1 -- 8, 1
III. The Seven Trumpets  8, 2 -- 11, 19
1. Preparatory Vision  8, 2-6

2. The First Six Trumpets  8, 7 -- 9, 21

3. An Intermediate Vision and the Seventh Trumpet  10, 1 -- 11, 19
IV. The Seven Signs  12, 1 -- 15, 4

V. The Seven Bowls  15, 5 -- 16, 21
1. Preparatory Vision  15, 5-8

2. The First Six Bowls  16, 1-12

3. An Intermediate Vision and the Seventh Bowl  16, 13-21
VI. Babylon the Great  17, 1 -- 19, 10

VII. The Consummation  19, 11 -- 22, 5

Epilogue  22, 6-21


Confraternity Bible:

APOCALYPSE OF ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE

Introduction

The Apocalypse is a revelation of the things that were, are and will be.  We are actually witnessing some of the events foretold in this book, but many still lie in the future.  It is Christ who commands John to write to the seven churches, opens the seven seals, reveals the sufferings of the saints, opens the little book, overcomes the beast, reigns during the period of the first resurrection, judges the dead, both great and small, according to their works at His Second Coming, rules over all things from the beginning, presides over all the changing scenes of earth's history, and is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

The book is one of hope, but also one of warning; its aim is to assure the Church of the advent of her Lord in victory.  The precise time of this victory lies hidden with God, but it is certain, although the crown will not be won without a struggle.  Heaven will be stormed and carried away through suffering and conflict.  And all who keep the words of this book will take part in the conflict and share in the victory.

The conflict is presented under the form of symbols.  It is not easy to give a full interpretation of all the types, but the general symbols are not difficult to understand.  Jerusalem stands as the type of the good cause, and this is the Church of Christ.  Babylon appears as the type of the evil cause, and this is the world power.  The heavenly Jerusalem has the assistance of divine power.  The earthly Babylon has the help of evil powers, the dragon, the beast and the false prophet.  The scenes in the great conflict arrange themselves around these types of good and of evil.  The numbers, the seals, the trumpets and the bowls are phases in the development and consummation of the conflict.

John has arranged the scenes in a sevenfold structure; even in the subordinate visions he keeps to this arrangement.  Commentators, however, are not agreed in marking off the limits of each structure.

The book was written in Greek by St. John the Evangelist, on the island of Patmos, about the year 96 A.D.